I’ve always had a fixation with forearms. Most people have forearms which look like pieces of string with a knot (that’d be the fist!) tied at the end. Looking at the average persons forearm, there doesn’t seem to be any real capacity for muscle growth, anyway. But, there is. And it’s not all that difficult to get big, strong forearms which stand out impressively from the worlds stringy-armed population.
You may not be aware of this, but many people who lift weights and have big strong forearms don’t actually train them directly. This is because the muscles responsible for giving us our grip are in the forearm; so many people needn’t work their forearms directly because the ever-increasing amounts of weight they lift (and are forced to grip) provide a forearm workout in itself.
But, I do believe in thoroughness, and I absolutely know for a fact that direct forearm work will supercharge the results in the forearm, so I advocate direct forearm work for any trainee. (Hey, even if bigger forearms don’t interest you, the benefits to be gained from the extra grip strength you’ll get should be enough to make you begin training them directly.)
Right, where were we? Forearm functions. Ok, so you already know the muscles which provide grip originate in the forearm. But, the other function of the forearm muscles is to bend your wrist upwards and downwards. By having your palm facing up and bending the wrist upwards, the muscles on that particular side of the forearm are pulling. Pull your wrist back into position and it’s the other side of the forearm doing the work.
You’ve probably guessed by now then, that the way to work our forearms is simply to lift a weight by raising our wrist each way. And… you’d be right!
Let me take you through it.
Topside forearm muscles (Reverse wrist curl):
The muscles on the topside of your forearm (the ones on the same side as the back of your hand) are the weaker of the two by far. It’s therefore wise to work this side of the forearm first, because doing it the other way and exhausting the stronger side, you’ll likely struggle like crazy when it comes to working this side because you grip will barely work. (If you don’t believe me, try it the other way around!)
Ok. Grab a dumbbell, and have your palm facing down. You can either place your forearm on a bench or on your knee (with your hand holding the dumbbell hanging over the edge). It’s now simply a case of keeping you forearm still (or holding it still with your other hand) and curling the weight up as far as you can all by lifting your wrist, and then lowering as far as you can.
Bottom side forearm muscles (Wrist curl):
Now for the more powerful muscles – you’ll likely be able to add a fair amount more weight for these ones.
The movement and set up is exactly the same as the reverse wrist curl, only this time, your palm is facing upward.
You also have an additional option which is not possible with the reverse movement: Some people believe allowing their grip to open slightly at the bottom of the movement, allowing the bar a little roll down the fingers before curling back up gives them a better forearm stretch and better workout. Others say this causes strain and isn’t necessary. I say each to their own – try out both ways and see what you think.
Alternatively, for both wrist curls and reverse wrist curls, you can use a barbell in the same manner to work both forearms at the same time.